Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Hypocrisy of UEFA:
UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), the governing body for European football is the most powerful and wealthy organization of the 6 continental confederations that comprise the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). UEFA is managed by the UEFA Executive Committee, a 14-member body, and is comprised namely of its president along with 4 elected vice-presidents and a treasurer. UEFA and its Executive Committee make all decisions regarding policy throughout Europe and unfortunately are recognizably soft on racism, one of the game's most pressing issues.
On October 10th, 2002, UEFA introduced a 10-point plan to combat racism in football that was accompanied by a statement by chief executive Gerhard Aigner and president Lennart Johansson that immediately deflected responsibility onto clubs: "UEFA's policy of total opposition to all forms of racism and xenophobia has been known for some time. We continue to urge all member associations, leagues and clubs to develop their own initiatives and raise awareness and oppose racism at a national and local level. Of course no one organization can solve this problem. Everyone involved including the clubs, fans, players, police and those responsible for stewarding has a responsibility here."

The 10-point plan reads as follows:
1. Issue a statement saying the club will not tolerate racism, spelling out the action it will take against those engaged in racist chanting. The statement should be printed in all match programs and displayed permanently and prominently around the ground.
2. Make public address announcements condemning racist chanting at matches.
3. Make it a condition for season ticket holders that they do not take part in racist abuse.
4. Take action to prevent the sale of racist literature inside and around the ground.
5. Take disiplinary action against players who engage in racist abuse.
6. Contact other clubs to make sure they understand the club's policy on racism.
7. Encourage a common strategy between stewards and police for dealing with racist abuse.
8. Remove all racist graffiti from the ground as a matter of urgency.
9. Adopt an equal opportunities policy in relation to employment and service provision.
10. Work with all other groups and agencies to develop pro-active programs and make progress to raise awareness of campaigning to eliminate racist abuse and discrimination.

This plan is quite vague and lacks aggressive, specific policy to combat the issue of racism in football. It instructs clubs to implement policies already in place and it could also be said that it insults the intelligence of those in charge of clubs across Europe. It reads as if it has been written by people who could not possibly understand what racism is or how widespread it has become in the game. In fact, only 4 days after the document was published it was sharply criticized by Paul Newman, communications director for the FA (England). Newman spoke up about the penalty handed out to Dutch team PSV Eindhoven in response to claims by Arsenal's Thierry Henry that he was subjected to monkey chants during a Champions League match. PSV was fined a nominal amount of
£13,000. Newman said of the fine, "UEFA has just launched a campaign against racism and it needs to increase the penalties if it wants it to be effective." His comments were met by UEFA's director of communications Mike Lee, who stated, "It was clear the punishment was too weak and sent out the wrong signals, but the disciplinary committee is a semi-independent body and is legally based." UEFA's signals are mixed at best.
Where is UEFA coming from when it issues a weak policy on racism and in turn issues admittedly weak fines for those who are in violation of this policy? One answer could be that UEFA itself is an unethical organization and has lent its name to a cause it cannot possibly identify with. Of the 14-members of UEFA's Executive Committee, not one member is a minority.
"We recognize the need to be working alongside those who have a specialist knowledge and understand the problems," current UEFA director of communications and public affairs Williams Gaillard said. "We will continue to give leadership to make sure the problem is foremost in the minds of European football." But instead of creating and funding a task force to deal with the issue, UEFA has given that responsibility to its 52 member associations and have formed a partnership with FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe). The partnership lends a small amount of credibility to UEFA and its efforts, yet the contributions made by UEFA to FARE have come strictly from the fines imposed on clubs and players for all forms of misbehavior at European matches. Viv Anderson, the first black player to ever play for England just 25 years ago, has recognized the weak financial impact of UEFA and identified the next logical step in this process. "The fines are minimal really. If they are going to fine (the clubs) they have to be severe. UEFA have to make a bigger stand than they have at the moment." He went on to say, "I think the next stage is management - you don't see many black managers and coaches and I think we have to change that." Anderson was joined by current Juventus and former Arsenal player Patrick Viera in criticism of UEFA and was subsequently punished for his opinion. Viera was the victim of apparent racism during a Champions League match with Arsenal at Spanish club Valencia and urged UEFA to hand down larger punishments. "UEFA are hypocrites. They keep saying they will do something about it but all they are doing about it is fining clubs
£2,000- £3,000 and nothing really happens," Viera said. "It's just words. I don't think anything will be done about it-it will never change." UEFA probed the incident and fined Valencia £9,250 and subsequently fined Viera £2,300 for his criticism.
UEFA is the richest and most influential continental organization in football and on the whole have done little to combat the international problem of racism. Ethics permeates our lives and in particular our relationships and for UEFA to introduce its 10-point plan that includes (#9) "Adopt an equal opportunity policy in relation to employment and service provision" and to not adopt the same policy for themselves is reprehensible. For UEFA to use its image as an example across Europe in these circumstances should not be tolerated by anyone in European football much less credible organizations like FARE who make partnerships and willingly accept money from UEFA. UEFA is a large organization and it can do much more to help this growing problem, but in the end the policy must also match the mission statement and in the case of UEFA they are lacking credibility and diversity at the top.